Guide to the Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire

Guide to the Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire

Sweeping crisscrosses of fields intercut with ancient walls and hedgerows, the Forest of Bowland is a beautiful stretch of countryside just waiting to be explored by eager amblers and their curious pups.

Discover pretty villages with oodles of character, scenic walks with plenty of places to stop and take in the view as well as a sweep of historical sites that are as breath-taking as they are interesting.


Find out more

Landscape and wildlife


Things to do



Landscape and wildlife

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Forest of Bowland covers 312 square miles and stretches from Lancashire all the way into North Yorkshire.

One of the first things you might ask when stepping out onto the expansive landscape of the Forest of Bowland is “where are all the trees?” We agree, the name does suggest a fairly wooded area but that’s not always the case. Historically, the word forest is used to define a large uncultivated tract of land, usually preserved for Royal hunting. 

In place of the forests you might have been expecting, you’ll discover a mix of mottled heather moorland, blankets of bog that are home to rare species of bird and a truly spectacular anthology of streams, rivers and waterfalls, not to mention the countryside that Lancashire and Yorkshire are both famous for.

For the twitchers and naturalists out there, the moorlands have been designated as a Special Protection Area due to the habitat acting as home for a variety of upland birds. You can also find a mix of brown hares, bumblebees, butterflies and maybe even some deer so it’s perfect for a stroll that gets you back to nature.



Grab the walking boots and water bottles, it’s time to discover why the Forest of Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Aitken Wood and Pendle Sculpture Tramper Trail

An abstract tree sculpture on the Pendle Sculpture Trail

Just shy of 3 miles, this woodland walk might be short but boy, does it deliver some incredible sights. Having learned about the history of the Pendle Witches in 1612, four artists came together to turn a stretch of Aitken Wood into a treasure trove of artistry, wonder and magic with a collection of statues made from wood, stone and steel. Although the climb can be steep in places, it’s well worth it as the top rewards you with incredible views of Pendle Hill.


Trough of Bowland Circular Walk

A sweeping shot of the Trough of Bowland

How can we talk about the varied and bewitching wilds of this National Landscape without mentioning the Trough of Bowland? Deep valleys steeped in iconic high passes make for an exceptional location for a walk. Starting in the pretty village of Dunsop Bridge (which just so happens to be the very centre of Great Britain and is worth a visit all on its own) this 8-mile circular walk takes you through a photobook of locations including peaceful rivers and a patchwork of fields. This lovely walk is fantastic for dogs as the babbling brooks provide endless enjoyment (and endless opportunities to get wet so keep an eye on your pooch if they love a chance to get muddy). While there aren’t many climbs, this is still quite a long walk with at least one steep section so walking boots and a good energy reserve are recommended.


Downham, Worsaw Hill, and Chatburn

The quiet village of Chatburn across a field with sheep

Another circular route so that you can enjoy brand new vistas at every turn, this stunning walk is hugely popular for a reason. Start off in Lancashire’s prettiest town Downham, which remains virtually unchanged with no wires, satellite dishes or road signs, and head towards Chatburn through rolling scenes that have more than earned their place on the big screen, including Wuthering Heights. Clocking in at just over 5 miles, this moderate trek is perfect for those who want a hearty walk as well as a beautiful view.


Things to do

Step out of the city and into a world of picturesque villages, ancient sites and stretching skies. Here are some of our favourite things to do in the Forest of Bowland.



A photo of the night sky above a cottage in the Forest of Bowland

When it comes to escaping the city, nothing is more restorative than getting back to nature and what better way to escape the modern world than with some stargazing. The Forest of Bowland is just one of the many Areas of Outstanding Beauty in the UK that enjoys Dark Skies status, meaning you can stretch out and escape to the magic of the skies during your visit.

If you really want to get into the stargazing spirit you can visit during the Dark Skies Festival in the winter, which will give you the chance to try your hand at some night-time photography as well as learning about the moon, nature and, of course, all you need to know about the stars that shine above us. Find out more on the Forest of Bowland website.


Historical sites

An ancient arch bathed in golden light at Sawley Abbey

The Forest of Bowland is rich in heritage and history, with many sites dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. For the history buffs, the ruins of Whalley Abbey and Sawley Abbey offer a glimpse into the past (12th-13th century to be exact). For those who enjoy stepping into the past while still being able to buy a coffee, take in the charm and tradition of one of the many historical villages such as Slaidburn, Chipping and Downham. And, for those who enjoy a twist to their history, follow the trail of the Pendle Witches, which follows the road that would have been used to transport the 12 people who were accused of murder and witchcraft to Lancaster for their execution in 1612.


Take to the skies

Someone paragliding over the Forest of Bowland

With such stunning terrain, what a shame it would be to only enjoy the scenery from ground level. Take to the skies above the Forest of Bowland with heart-pumping and eye-widening activities such as gliding, paragliding and even hot air ballooning. Watch as the ancient farmlands and rivers unfurl beneath you as you soar through the air like a bird. For the thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike!


Eat out

The Inn at Whitewell exterior

When it comes to eating out in the Forest of Bowland, there’s one place that has earned such acclaim that it’s a permanent fixture in the good food guide and has been featured in Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s TV show The Trip. The Inn at Whitewell offers traditional charm with simply phenomenal food that ranges from a classic fish and chips to wild mushroom arancini.

In Chipping, you’ll find the UK’s oldest continuously running shop, Brabin’s Shop and Tea Room where you can pick up all of your shopping essentials before sitting down to a cuppa and piece of homemade cake.


Eat in

A mix of hanging meats and vegetables at the Bowland Food Hall

Prefer to make the most of your Boutique Retreat and dine in? Pick up everything you need for a top-notch dinner at Bowland Food Hall in Clitheroe. Stocked with only the best produce from Bowland and beyond, whether you fancy a light lunch from the deli you can enjoy overlooking one of Bowland’s stunning scenes or a delicious feast you can create using one of Bowland Food Hall’s own recipes and local ingredients, this is definitely the place to stock up your holiday cupboards - and perhaps even a suitcase or two *wink, wink.


Start exploring this stunning Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and book your stay in one of our exceptional properties in North Yorkshire.

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